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'Face Off' Recap: Double the Work, Half the Pay-Off

Giant successes and monstrous mistakes this week on SyFy's FX show
Richard Whittaker, 4:50pm, Sun. Feb. 17, 2013
Fe fi fo fum, I smell latex molds. Kris and Eric F. go bigger than big, Wayne and House get a split personality, and Anthony and Autumn manage to co-exist
Image courtesy of SyFy

For a makeup effects show, we've been oddly light on pros on this season of Face Off. Oh, sure, there are the judges, but when it comes to guests, we had John Rhys-Davis luvvying it up, and a bunch of DC folks doing some designs. Big names behind the camera have been a little light on the ground. But first, product placement!

This week's scene-setting trip is a quick excursion to Magic Mountain, with lots of forced jumping around and excitement for the cameras from the participants. But that's nothing compare to the clumsy way the producers crowbar their big name guest in. Oh, gawd, this is awkward. Watching host McKenzie Westmore painfully attempt to find a way to excuse director Bryan Singer's presence. Magic Mountain has a big Sequioa. The Sequioa is giant tree. Singer just made Jack the Giant Slayer. The original Jack fairy tale has giants with multiple heads. Singer's film has two-headed giants. Can you see where this challenge is going? Yesh, the remaining ten contestants have to make a two headed giant. Well, that's excruciating.

Eric F. faceplants on the professionalism front by squeaking "This is rad!" when he hears that Singer will be in judging the final design. Dude, cool it, there are adults watching. But then again, he's the first to leap in with a really radical design when the twist in the commission is announced. This being two heads better than one, and so the contestants are sent off in "randomly selected" (a-hem) teams of two.

Top Looks

Anthony was the clear front runner, but are other contenders standing on the shoulders of giants?
Image courtesy of SyFy

Wayne and House: A triple-scalped leviathan in a realm of double-domers? Ah, smart move. Right until they realize everyone else seems to be doing a three-headed sculpt. Ro-roh, Shaggy. Still, they're wisely integrating something from episode one: Their giant will be partially a tree, and the judges love whenever anyone integrates some natural elements into a design.

Autumn and Anthony: Oh, Anthony, finding the polite way to describe Autumn as a "strong player" and talking about how two leaders will always clash, and that it's a little nerve-wracking to let someone else handle the facial sculpt. When he finally snaps, it's still polite. But then he has his own work cut out, manufacturing a head within the chest growing out of the heart. It's not the greatest work from far away, but close up the little touches, like the lolling tongue and the bulbous eyes, are magnificent. Plus, don't let the faraway shots fool you: The paint job is exquisite.

Kris and Eric F.: I am not always Flop Top's biggest fan, and I reserve the right to mock his The Fifth Element haircut, but his designs are always bold. His two-headed concept, ten foot tall, with the model/operator as Jack between the two, is yet another 'go big or go home' plan. It's up there with last week's molten gummy monstrosity, but then he had big problems when its animatronics detached. Even visting mentor Westmore is worried that his ambition can't be contained in the three days he has for fabrication. And when he doesn't even have the monster hand complete going in to the final day, that could have been catastrophic. Still, the end result, if a little cartoony and rough on the costuming side, is funny and effective.

Bottom Looks

Bad day for the 512: Jenna and Meagan fall apart together, while Alam and Eric Z. need some foot surgery
Image courtesy of SyFy

Meagan and Jenna: Now there's a real clash of styles here. Meagan, after some serious blows to her confidence on the manufacturing side, wants to take a super-cautious approach. Jenna, one of the two remaining Austinites and the sole survivor of #teamredhead, going wild, talking about giant birds and giant horses. Hmm. After the last two challenges, where her hand kept seizing up, she may want to be more conservative. And the she and Meagan start clashing, and her hand seizes up, and Meagan calls the result of their efforts "a disaster." They know its bad and don't even try to defend what may be the worst creation in show history. Yeowch. Hurts to say that, but when they give up on their original concept of a double-decked head, and turn the second skull into a facial codpiece, it's the only originality gone.

Alam and Eric Z: Welcome to upsidedown world. It's undeniably creative to have a giant-killing giant, with talking heads on his feet, and the creative pair seem to meld well, but the feet-head will be tough to waddle off into the sunset. Plus, unlike the concept, the feet don't actually talk. Or move. They just look … awkward. Unfortunately, the judges pretty much ignore everything except how the feet just don't work. "From the ankles up," says judge Ve Neill in a supportive fashion, "he looks wonderful." Singer waits until the pair have walked away to completely demolish their work. In fact, he's a little meaner than even Glenn Hetrick, master of the bait-and-switch complisult (half compliment, half searing insult). Ah I guess he's still a little bitter because Superman Returns sucked. See, not so nice when people are mean about you when you're out of the room, eh, Mr. Singer?

Overall, it's a bit of a disappointing week. Nobody blew me away. Nobody's costume seems really camera ready. Maybe that's a consequence of the challenge: There's such scale that no-one really had time to think about the details, and only Kris and Eric F. really do anything to make the extra-tall models look bigger. Frankly, half of these designs could have been trolls, and no-one would have known the difference: There's no sense of scale, even though the show seemingly hired a basketball team to show the designs off. Weirdly, some even make these dunkers look shorter. Huh. Not sure how that happened. Maybe a full-blown kaiju suit would have been most effective, and Eric F.'s design (with the model's own head sticking out of a ten foot costume like a kidnap victim/giant snack) is the closest thing.

Of course, Kris and Eric F. walk away with the top look, although it was really Eric F. who walks away with the victory. Justified, since it was all his idea. Could he start to become Anthony's big challenger, or will his fabrication and scheduling issues get the better of him? Interesting that, after being the wallflower of the first couple of episodes, Kris has had back-to-back top looks.

And after Jenna throws herself on her sword to protect Meagan, it's no surprise that she gets sent home. She's shown guts, working through the pain, but she really couldn't do the work, and that's a tragedy. So that means the only surviving member of #team512 is Eric Z.

No pressure.

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